Florida – Swimming with Dolphins

Ticking off the Bucketlist

Florida Dolphin – Such a happy face

Despite being terrified of water and being a rubbish swimmer, I’ve always wanted to swim with Dolphins. I remember visiting Sea World as a kid and changing my grand plans of being a vet to being a Dolphin Trainer. I then watched “Free Willy” and changed my alliances to Orcas. Needless to say, I didn’t end up doing any of the above jobs, I did however fulfil my dream of swimming with dolphins. 

On our 2017 USA trip we spent a week in Orlando and the highlight of the holiday for me was without a doubt Discovery Cove. After having spent a week battling crowds at Universal this exclusive park was a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately for us, we happened to go on the only cold day of our holiday, and were interrupted several times by thunderstorms and heavy rain. However, nothing could have ruined the trip for me. 

Nancy the Dolphin

Meet Nancy – our dolphin for the day

Our Dolphin was called Cindy. At 50 years old she did have a slightly gappy smile, but nevertheless, she was perfect. The sessions started off with them allowing to stroke the dolphin across the back and belly and explaining where you can and can’t touch. It then progressed to doing some tricks such as waving, splashing and jumping before we swam out to the centre of the pool where we grabbed onto her dorsal fin and flipper for her to bring us back to shore again. The session finished off with a hug and kiss. 

Snorkelling with Sting Rays

The entire experience was fantastic, as was the rest of the park. After the dolphins we spent a large proportion of the rest of the day snorkelling in the Reef Pool. A first for both of us, and something I enjoyed a lot more than anticipated. The pool had a number of different types of Sting Rays, including Southern Rays which were 6 foot across. I must say, it was rather imposing swimming above these enormous creatures. Sometimes they came so close that their slimy bodies would touch ours. 

Snorkelling with manta rays

We also got the opportunity to feed some of the smaller ones. Despite having fed a number of them at Sea World I still can’t get used it. They slide over your hand a suck the food off out of your hand. Because they were awaiting to be fed, they were slithering between our legs. I was also concerned I was going to tread on them although it seems they move pretty fast. 

The pool had much more than Rays though. It also had beautifully coloured fish and corals. I can’t remember the name of any of them, however, I do remember the sharks. I hadn’t realised there were sharks so you can imagine the shock as I’m slowly making my way around marvelling at the fish when I see this massive shark heading towards me. My heart stopped and my mind started screaming! What do I do? Are you meant to stay still, swim, run, flap? Surely, they wouldn’t have dangerous sharks in here? But I don’t remember them saying there were sharks? And just at that moment the shark turned around and I realised there was a glass between them and me! Phew! 

Despite being rather cold the whole experience has really inspired me to go snorkelling elsewhere in future!

The Bird Park

Doug the bird magnet

The other element of the park I really didn’t expect to enjoy was the aviary. Such an array of colours and incredible looking birds. They had some really funky coloured pigeons and doves, as well as tucans, cookoos, parrots and a general array of other wonderful species which I can’t begin to name. The park doesn’t feed them, instead you help yourself to food and wait for them to descend on you. At times we were completely swarmed. Some happily falling asleep on us, others less gentle. The only negative was the amount of poop!

Colourful doves

The other great thing about Discovery Cove is free drink and food all day, and no people! With only 1000 guests let in each day it really does feel like you are there on your own (nearly). 

My only reservations about the park is its affiliation with Sea World. I’ve never been a big fan of zoos; however, I’ve always understood that those that are managed correctly offer some great benefits to the animals in the wild in regards to research and education. However, despite watching Black Fish with reservations, I still have my reservations as to how they keep and manage their Orca’s, and potentially Dolphins in Sea World, and therefore by default, I can’t help but think that the Dolphin’s at Discovery Cove are also potentially in too small enclosures. I don’t know enough about Marine life though and therefore can’t really cast judgement. What I do know however, is that I had a fantastic day and was able to do stuff I would never have otherwise been able to do. So, if you are going to Florida, do visit Discovery Cove! 

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